Performers with special needs show parade is 'for everyone'

President Tony Tan at a song-signing rehearsal organised by Touch Community Services yesterday. The participants will lead the audience at the National Stadium in hand-signing to Home and Count On Me, Singapore.
President Tony Tan at a song-signing rehearsal organised by Touch Community Services yesterday. The participants will lead the audience at the National Stadium in hand-signing to Home and Count On Me, Singapore.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

All eyes will be on 150 special-needs participants this National Day as they lead a crowd of 275,000 at the National Stadium in hand-signing to two popular songs.

In this "song-signing", the audience will be invited to follow sign language cues to Home and Count On Me, Singapore.

It is the first time that the annual parade will feature song-signing, and this will be the largest group of special-needs participants involved in the national celebrations.

The 150 performers come from seven voluntary welfare organisations that span a wide spectrum of special needs, including hearing and visual impairments and physical and intellectual disabilities.

"These special-needs participants will be given a very prominent role," said President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who visited Touch Community Services in Ubi during its weekly rehearsal yesterday.

"It represents our recognition that the parade is for everybody. Singapore is for everybody," he noted.

"That is what we want to build for the Singapore of tomorrow - not only economic success, which is necessary, but also for people to look after one another."

Mr Danny Loke, a senior manager at Touch, who is helping to prepare participants for the show, said they have gone through two-hour sessions every week to learn how to sign, as well as training to get physically fit.

They are achieving this goal through aerobic dance, stretching and other exercises to help them build up their stamina and hone their coordination so they can perform on stage.

"But the challenge is not in how to prepare them for the event, but rather in how to get the creative team and chaperones from the armed forces to understand the needs and limitations of the participants, yet not belittle what each of them can do," said Mr Loke.

Ms Ng Kai Chin, 27, who has hearing impairment and intellectual disability, said: "The song-signing is quite easy, and I am happy to be involved as it is my first time at the parade."

Said another participant, 40-year-old Shoban Ganaash Pillai, who has an intellectual disability: "I like to watch the National Day Parade, and I hope this first parade at the National Stadium will be better than the ones held at the Padang."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'Performers with special needs show parade is 'for everyone''. Print Edition | Subscribe